Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Creepout - Tribe Called Hardcore (2010)

The Japanese are famous for their unwavering devotion to their chosen obsessions. The otaku mindset informs the general Japanese approach to pastimes. Video games, manga, jazz music, karaoke, pachinko...you name it and droves of Japanese have dedicated their entire being to it.

But Cleveland-style hardcore, that's pretty specific, right? I mean, Tokyo is a big place (about 35 million people in the metropolitan area) and all, but how likely is it that there would be a subculture of people in a foreign country dedicated to something that only a handful of people here in America know the ins and outs of? Well, I'm only half Asian so I'm not going to do the math for you, but it's pretty fucking unlikely. But lucky for Tokyo hardcore kids and the rest of us, there does exist such a subculture, replete with construction gloves, Indians tattoos, Timberlands and Browns jerseys. I guess good taste transcends language barriers.

And Creepout is top of the heap in my opinion. People usually associate Japanese hardcore with more punk-oriented stuff like Gauze and Death Side. You know; fast, fuzzed-out, treble-y, with public restroom-quality recording. That stuff is cool and all, but if you know me you know what I like, and what I like is some big fat Clevo riffs. Politics aside (as they should be, up to a point), I think Crime Ridden Society is the hardest record of the 90's, and from the sounds of it, so does Creepout.

Tribe Called Hardcore is Creepout's best material so far (even though I also love the self titled and the split with Integrity), and it's basically a loving tribute to One Life Crew, Cleveland hardcore, and the Indians. The record opens with a sample of the Troggs' "Wild Thing", which confused me at first, until I remembered that it was the entrance music of the character Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn from the Cleveland Indians-themed comedy movie Major League. Such an amazing reference. After that the LP kicks in and takes you for a wild-ass ride, so wild in fact that you'll think you're right in the thick of Ten Cent Beer Night, if Ten Cent Beer Night had had Those Who Fear Tomorrow playing over the PA.

One Life Crew and In Cold Blood are the obvious starting points for Tribe Called Hardcore, with certain parts (like "Martial Law") reminding me of some of Crowd Deterrent's more melodic moments (example: "Late Nights, Fist Fights"). They stick to the intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-breakdown that Integrity and OLC honed in the largely linear-structured 1990s. The breakdowns are fucking nasty. The pre-chorus and pre-breakdown parts develop a nice sense of space by letting chords ring, or cutting everything except one guitar, before hitting you with a fast 90s-style slam. Good examples are "Fuck Your Heaven" and "Bash Brothers", which both have breakdown lead-ins that remind me of "Real Domain". This is hands-down my favorite kind of hardcore, and it's so nice that these guys have taken such care to re-create the hallmarks of its feel.

My boy Yuichiro is on guitar sounding like the reincarnation of Blaze Tishko (Blaze isn't dead, fyi), serving up similarly tasty riffs with all the flavor but half the body fat. That picking style is so key to the Clevocore aesthetic, and I don't think I've ever heard it nailed so well by an outsider. Kunihyde's vocals are quite similar to Wake from the great Japanese oi! band Sledge Hammer (Samurai Spirit, only the truly ignorant need investigate further): raspy bordering on gurgly but still carrying a tune, sort of. With some shades of Mean Steve, too, of course. Great stuff.

One of my favorite things about the album is that they have a bunch of their homies (Senta, Ill-Tee, Lowbuster, Dr. Feelgood) come on to do guest vocal spots. This is something that is almost never done well on hardcore records, but they're placed well, and all these dudes sound so raw that it works. Especially on the last track ("59 Ways to Hell"), where there is a Wu-Tang style rotation of guys that sound like city-destroying monsters out of a Godzilla movie.

In summary, this is the best Cleveland-style hardcore record of the past 15 years. It's made with such a high degree of authenticity, it's no surprise these dudes are basically honorary Ohioans. Essential listening for fans of OLC and the Cleveland Indians.

Story time. I am one of a handful of Americans who have had the privilege of seeing Creepout in their natural habitat. On my way home from Korea in 2009, I visited Tokyo for the first time, and wouldn't you know it, there was a Creepout gig going down that coincided perfectly with my trip.

For the first three days in Japan I think I slept about 3 hours. I had decided that the best way to experience the stuck-in-a-videogame neon insanity of Shibuya and Shinjuku was to be in a sleep-deprived daze (I was right, by the way). Somehow I managed to find out how to get to the place where the show was, and let me assure you Americans reading this that that is easier said than done, especially considering that the entrance to the place was hidden between two buildings and looked like a stairway down to an abandoned cellar. Sadly, shows are pay-to-play in Japan, and at exorbitant rates to boot, so I think I wound up paying about 30 bucks just to get in. This better be the best damn hardcore show of all time, I thought to myself. Lucky me; it was totally unforgettable.

Every single person I met was incredibly welcoming and friendly, especially after I dropped the names of some mutual friends from Ohio (because I'm a baller), so it was a little bit of a shock when the show started and I saw how hard these kids go off. I should say that I've been to hardcore shows in several countries and in Asia it's unusual to see a lot of movement from the locals. I think it's extremely embarrassing when people talk about moshing, but I'm going to break my own rule here. These dudes were seriously beating the hell out of each other. But there were exactly zero fights, and everyone was smiling and having a great time while getting hit right in the grill.

I generally try to stay out of things when I'm in a new city, because every scene has varying levels of what is considered acceptable, and there can be a fine line between getting a "nice moves, bro" pat on the back and getting your ass beat by dudes with face tattoos. However, after seeing the Japanese kids wail on each other for about half an hour and fucking love every second of it, I figured I was ok. For their last song Creepout covered "Murdario Stomp/Pure Disgust" and that sealed it. I stepped out and immediately got pasted right in the face. But when the pit calls, a true pit warrior must answer, so I gave in to the dark side of the force and sang "Pure Disgust" until my throat was raw.

Anyway, I had gotten hit in the face, hard, at least three times during that last song. The trains stop running relatively early in Tokyo, so I had to run from the show to catch the last one back to my hostel. At some point while I was running, I started gushing blood from my nose, only I didn't realize it because I was seeing stars, sleep-deprived, and running as fast as I could to catch the train. I caught it, just barely, and sat down. After a minute or two I noticed all the business-suited salarymen on the train were staring at me. I was wondering what their problem was but then caught a glimpse of myself in the window across the aisle. I was quite a sight. I was wearing a white t-shirt and the front, as well as the lower half of my face, was covered in blood.

I cleaned myself up (luckily I had my backpack with an extra shirt inside), got back to my hostel about an hour later, and slept like a rock. Great night.

Note: I'm uploading this because as far as I can tell there's no way to buy it right now (I bought it on CD from the band last year), but if you dig this come out to see these dudes play Summer of Hate, which is their one U.S. show a year.


  1. This was a great read, I stopped following hardcore about 5 years ago, but recently I got the itch to check some stuff out. Found this and am very impressed, late to the party as always, but who cares!

  2. Yeah Creepout is incredible.